Develop policies and implement best practices that have worked for others.
Posted Sep 20, 2004
We all know that email is being used increasingly by customers to communicate with companies they buy from, as well as by organizations to market to their customers. What some firms don't know, however, is how to effectively manage those communications.
A common complaint about customer service emails is slow response rates. Slow response times occur when companies do not follow the call center model of first in, first out. Customer service representatives can choose which emails to respond to, and do not have to resolve a customer's problem before moving to the next inquiry. There are several best practices which, when properly employed, can improve customer service email:
Set, manage, and track customer expectations. Using email as a mode of communication for customer service has certain downsides due to the fact that it is not in real time. Therefore, it is crucial that you inform customers about when you plan to respond. Be reasonable with the amount of time that you set. This will provide you with some leeway and typically, customers will allow for a slight delay if they are told that their request is being processed.
Monitor your response time. Determine your optimal response time and track your response rates to ensure that you're keeping your promises to customers. In addition, enforce your response rates by setting up alarms that are triggered if an inquiry is not handled on time.
Track inquiries and measure agent performance. While evaluating response times is important, be sure not to solely focus on it and forget about other customer service strategies.
Automate service processes with intelligent routing. Remember that response times will depend on the time it takes for an inquiry to reach the appropriate agent for the call. You can automate your workflows to direct emails based on the nature of the inquiry, the value of the customer and the expertise of the agent.
Another area that requires attention is the use of email for direct-marketing purposes. Email marketing is quickly establishing itself as a cost-effective way for marketers to reach prospects.
Best practices to improve email marketing results include:
Writing a compelling subject line. A good subject line effectively communicates the content of an email message and provides immediate insight into its intrinsic value.
Personalizing your email message. Be sure to include the name of the recipient in the salutation.
Keeping the message content brief and to the point. Effective email content communicates key benefits and points early on.
Establishing good email-etiquette guidelines. Never write email messages in ALL CAPS. Also, avoid sending attachments to customers unless you're confident that the attachments will be well received.
Focusing on a single subject. Never forget that your readers are busy people with limited time to read email. If you find that you need to communicate with your customers more frequently, consider developing a newsletter campaign.
Email management can be tricky business. The best way to improve the management of your company's incoming and outgoing email is to develop policies and implement best practices that have worked for others. When done correctly email management can significantly increase your company's bottom line.